The most dangerous weapon the Colts will face Sunday against the undefeated Kansas City Chiefs has got to be the electric Jamaal Charles. Charles leads the Chiefs in yardage (238 rushing, 92 receiving) and is 10th in the league in rushing yards per game (9th in total yards) even though he’s yet to carry more than 12 times in a game. In just 34 carries he’s already ripped off 4 runs of 20+ yards, including one of 40+ giving him an absurd YPC of 7.0. The Chiefs passing game doesn’t even average 7 yards per attempt (and that’s without docking them for sacks at all). Charles has been used sparingly, but VERY effectively.
Charles is obviously a potent weapon but the Colts D is built around not giving up the big play. This extends even to the Colts much maligned run defense. Last year they allowed only 1 run over 40 yards. Only 4 teams went through all of 2009 without allowing a 40+ and over half the league allowed multiple runs of 40+. They allowed only 9 runs of 20+ all year (with 4 of those coming in weeks 16/17), an effort outdone by only 9 teams last year. In 2008 (also known as the year Indy started DTs averaging 260lbs) the numbers were a touch worse than the league average (11 and 3), but in 2007 the Colts were one of 7 teams not to allow a run of 40+ yards, and allowed the 2nd least runs of 20+ yards with just 4 all year.
In 2009 Jamaal Charles had 5 runs of 40+ yards in just 190 carries. In addition to Charles, since 2005 only Chris Johnson (2009), Steve Slaton (2008), DeAngelo Williams (2008), Adrian Peterson (2007), Frank Gore (2006), LaDainian Tomlinson (2006) and Tiki Barber (2005) have had 5 or more runs of 40+ in a season and only Charles did it in under 230 carries.
The Colts have never faced Charles, but they have played 16 games against the above backs in the last 3 years (3 against Johnson, 5 against Tomlinson, 1 against Peterson, 1 against Williams, 5 against Slaton and 1 against Gore).
In the 203 carries in those 16 games, they gave up a run of 20+ 5 times. Twice to Slaton (41 and 71), Once to Tomlinson (20), Once to Gore (64) and once to Peterson (29). Not a bad total at all in a whole season’s worth of games against the leagues top big play backs. Speedster Chris Johnson, responsible for 31 runs of 20+ in 31 games and 10 of 40+ over the 2008 and 2009 seasons, has yet to break a run of more than 16 yards in 3 matchups with Indy. In 2009 Chris Johnson had 22 runs of 20+ of 7 them for 40+ in the 14 games against other teams, but had longs of just 8 and 11 yards against Indy.
These 6 backs averaged 4.42 yards per carry in the 16 games against Indy, absolutely nothing to sneeze at, but that’s a pretty elite group of backs.
Limiting the comparison to young backs to look and run like Charles you have Steve Slaton with 2 runs of 40+ in 52 attempts and a 6.77 YPC (vs 4.01 in games against other opponents) and Chris Johnson, with no runs of 20+ in 55 attempts and a 4.07 YPC (vs 5.19 in games against other opponents).
The massive difference in performance between the two backs lies back in 2008 where Slaton victimized the Colts D for 249 yards on just 30 carries, 8.3 YPC, in the two matchups, including both of Slaton’s 40+ runs. As previously mentioned the Colts had some issues in run D in 2008. Chris Johnson going for comparatively pedestrian 19 for 77 (4.05 YPC, 16 yard long) in his one game against the 2008 Colts D which Slaton shredded can probably be attributed to the unprecedented departure from the Colts base 4-3 Tampa-2 into a 4-4 front for most of Indy’s key MNF matchup against Tennessee.
In 2009, and week 1 this year Slaton was held to a far more reasonable 103 for 22 (4.68 YPC) with longs of 13, 4 and 12.
While the Colts week 1 performance and overall run D stats have many Chiefs fans salivating the real horror-shows for the Colts run D have been big pounding backs like Fred Taylor (6’1″ 230lbs), MJD (5’7″ 208), Arian Foster (6’0″ 230lbs) and, to our eternal shame, Ron Dayne (5’10” 245lbs).